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What Happens When Learning Counts?

In 2010, CAEL conducted the first major multi-institutional study of the relationship between prior learning assessment (PLA) credit-earning and student academic outcomes, which found that adult students with PLA credit were two and a half times more likely to have earned a postsecondary degree than similar students with no PLA credit.


These findings have prompted postsecondary institutions and systems to expand their PLA offerings. In addition, other organizations and institutions have conducted their own studies of PLA and students’ outcomes that have resulted in similar findings.

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Do Methods Matter?

Do Methods Matter? PLA, Portfolio Assessment, and the Road to Completion and Persistence presents the findings from a study that examines the relationship between PLA and student outcomes, while also exploring whether students might have different outcomes depending upon the specific method of PLA that they are using.


To understand whether PLA is associated with better student outcomes, we analyzed data on degree completion and persistence+ (i.e., students who completed a degree or were still enrolled).

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Making PLA Count in the Degree Plan

Prior learning assessment (PLA) offers students a way to earn college credit for what they have learned outside the classroom through work, military, and life experiences. PLA can be an important offering at colleges and universities because adult students with extra-institutional learning can save time and money while persisting towards their degree. However, some institutions dampen the potential impact of PLA by placing limits on the number of allowable credits earned through PLA or by placing limits on the types of degree requirements that PLA can fulfill.

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